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Over My Dead Body--Strategies to keep mom at home

If you're facing growing concern for your aging loved ones who refuse to even consider leaving their home because they claim they are not ready, you're not alone. This isn't a new problem and it will continue until the end of time. I'm sure you're aware that most people don't want to move to assisted living or personal care, even if it might be the best option for them and their families. Thankfully, with a little know-how and patience, you can assist your aging love ones to age in place, in their homes, where they want to be.

Safety first

One of the biggest concerns of the sandwich generation is that their aging loved ones aren't safe in their homes. Many seniors live alone, having few family members, neighbors or friends that stop by regularly. Seniors may be less able-bodied than they used to be and this can be a recipe for a crisis situation such as a fall where they sit on the floor, unable to get help for hours or even days. They may have more difficulty navigating stairs, they may only a bath tub instead of a shower stall, and they may have to go down to the basement to do their laundry.

One of the best ways you can help your aging loved one make their home safer is to inspect every inch of their living space with a fine tooth comb. For a regular person, this is pretty straight forward, for a hoarding situation, you may have more difficulty convincing them that they need to get rid of things to make the space safe. That's when you negotiate and bring in an organizing or downsizing professional to clean out living spaces for a safer environment.

Fix any flooring issues that stand out such as uneven surfaces. Uneven transitions from tile to wood to carpet can be eased with a transition strips, and even if it isn't as pretty, you may want to highlight transitions with a bright colored, reflective tape. As we age, our gait gets shorter and we don't pick up our feet as high as we think. If there are uneven surfaces, it's more likely for an older person to trip. This is also why cleaning up clutter and keeping floor surfaces free of debris is important. Inspect carpets and ensure all edges are taped in place.

Install railings on both sides of stairwells and get rid of any carpet on stair cases. Ensure that there is bright lighting on all stair cases. I like the idea of motion sense lighting which can help a forgetful senior when they try to navigate the stairs in the dark.

If your loved one has mobility challenges and still wants to stay in their home with stairs, get a quote for a stair chair lift and/or ramps. They are pricey but it might be worth it to keep them safe and able to get up and down in those older homes that aren't handicapped accessible.

Another project that might cost more is finding a way to bring laundry up to the main living floor, or even better, closer to the bedroom. This may involve taking out walls and re-plumbing an area, but it might be worth it for safety. You can also hire a housekeeper to do laundry and linens, or if your loved one is strapped for cash, you can make some time yourself to do their laundry each week.

Bath tubs are common in older homes. Many seniors do not have a handicapped accessible bathroom situation and this can be remedied by taking out tubs and putting in shower stalls with grab bars. Some companies will even come in and do this transition in one day. If you can't afford to do a bath transition, you can purchase a shower chair that they can sit on which can help them swing their legs over the bath-tub wall. I always recommend hiring a home care aid or being present for stand by assistance for bathing if you are concerned about falls in the shower.

Installing a higher toilet or a raised toilet seat and grab bars near the toilet can also help with transitions on and off.

Take a good look at your loved one's safety practices in the kitchen. You may want to disconnect the stove and oven if you are worried about memory loss. Many seniors make due with just a microwave or meals provided by loved ones.

In addition, you may also want to get a script from the doctor for occupational therapy at home. A trained occupational therapist will help you make the home safer for your loved one. They will give you the proper specifications for grab bars and assistive devices.

I've Fallen and I Can't Get Up-How AI Can Help Out

Thankfully, technology has come a long way since the beginning days of Life Alert. The panic button option is still available but there is so much more on the market now. Do a little research and purchase a product that can sense if your loved one has a fall. Many smart watches can now monitor vitals as well as an accident and it can call for help without them doing anything at all. If they will not have the know-how to use it, you can always opt for a pull cord in the bathroom or by the bed. If they are compliant, you can always opt for the classic call button style also.

Digital motion sensor cameras are often used for keeping an eye on aging loved ones and can be connected to smart phones. These are much less expensive than they used to be and can be extremely helpful if you are worried about your loved one falling and not being able to get to help. Keep one in a common space like near the television and one near the bathroom entrance. These places are frequented during the day and night, but will provide them with some privacy when doing their business.

GPS Trackers are another way to keep tabs on your loved one who might have a tendency to get lost or wander. You can place a tag in their wallet or purse, or even buy shoes that have a pocket for a tracker.

When Enough is Enough

If you're at a point where you are afraid to leave your loved one unsupervised, even with all the updates, consider adult day programming as an option. With adult day programs, your loved one is cared for and entertained during the week day but will still be able to go home at night. Many programs will offer nursing care, meals, bathing and grooming, toileting, changing and medication management. Day programs can often extend a person's finances as they tend to be less expensive than one-on-one care at home or live-in memory care.

I have seen families work together to share duties and stay with their loved one to offset the cost of home care, but be mindful that most elder abuse comes from family members and stress is a major factor in how that can come about. At the end of the day, if your loved one has the money, it might be worth looking into some help at home to ease some of the stress for the family.

Live-in caregivers tend to be less expensive than round the clock care. With some of the safety options highlighted above, you may have a much more pleasant experience with the same caregiver who sleeps over and stays with your loved one full time.

We all want to stay home as long as possible. With aging loved ones, the challenges are vast, but thankfully there are plenty of assistive devices available now. As technology advances, more and more options become available. While keeping your loved one at home is always the first choice, I always suggest that you get to know your local assisted living and memory care options in the case that you need to find a place quickly.

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